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The trial of the leaders of the democratic opposition in Kazakhstan is dominated by prosecutors – say Ukrainian human rights activists

Ukrainian human rights activists and journalists participated in the trial of the leaders of the democratic opposition in Kazakhstan – Vladimir Kozlov, Serik Sapargali and Akzhanat Aminov. Human rights activists reported on the systematic violation of the principles of equality and adversity in court, which casts doubt over the justice and validity of the final decision of the court. Events in Kazakhstan are similar to those in other countries, and so it is important that the international community collaboratesto counter violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms.

This issue was discussed on the 31th of August, 2012, during the press conference of representatives of the observation mission on human rights in the Republic of Kazakhstan, which was organised by the “Centre for Civil Liberties” NGO with the support of The Open Dialogue Foundation (Lublin, Poland).

The Head of the Observation Mission to observe human rights in the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nazariy Boyarskiy, reported that on the 30th of August, 2012, it is already the third delegation of Ukrainian experts  that had returned from Kazakhstan. “For nearly half a year we have been participating in the judicial processes  in Aktau in the hope that our presence will make some contribution towards a fair trial and to convey to the international arena truthful information about the Zhanaozen riots and their consequences,” – said Boyarskiy.

The head of the unregistered opposition party “Alga!” Vladimir Kozlov, activist of the social movement ‘Khalyk Maidnay” (‘People’s Front) Serik Sapargali and leader of the strike movement Akzhanat Aminov are charged  with fomenting social hatred and calling for the overthrow of the constitutional order, which led to the tragic events in Zhanaozen in December 2011. Vladimir Kozlov completely denied the charges filed against him. Akzhanat Aminov pleaded guilty and Serik Sapargali conceded partial guilt.

Journalist of the Centre for Human Rights Iryna Vyrtosu, who was present at the court hearings, said that the witnesses had made inconsistent statements when answering inconvenient questions from the defence, and that the judge dismissed such questions. Motions of the defence have been rejected during the trial, conversely when identical motions have been entered by the prosecutor – they have been granted. The journalist also drew attention to the fact that local people are being threatened by the authorities and they are in fear of  prosecution, so the court meetings are only being attended by journalists and supporters of Vladimir Kozlov. “Pro-governmental media are not covering the trial or they are simply  regurgitating what the authorities say. Moreover, in the evidence base of the prosecution there are materials of opposition media sources, namely: the TV channels K+, Stan TV, the newspapers ‘Golos Respubliki’ (‘Voice of the Republic’), ‘Vzlgyad’ (‘The View’), the online portal “Respublika’ (‘The Republic’). Experts predict that these media sources may soon face closure if the court recognises their activities as ones which incite social discord. Independent journalists are afraid of oppression, but they do not want to leave Kazakhstan because they feel a responsibility  to Kazakh society “, – said Iryna Vyrtosu.

During the conference, experts compared Ukraine and Kazakhstan, and talked about the trends that threaten the basic rights and freedoms in Ukraine and Russia.

The Chairman of the Centre for Civil Liberties Aleksandra Matviychuk gave an example where the practice of infringement of rights and freedoms in one country has a certain effect in the other. “In Ukraine, following the example of Russia, a bill on countering extremism was presented for the parliament’s consideration. And following the example of Kazakhstan, some members of the parliament propose to introduce criminal liability of journalists for libel. So the authorities can incarcerate any nonconforming activist or journalist. Therefore, human rights and civil society organisations should jointly oppose violations of the rights and freedoms of the individual, not only in their own country but also in neighbouring countries”, – concluded A. Matviychuk.

Our observers Iryna Vyrtosu and Alyona Luneva gave a special, separate comment on the trial of Kazakh opposition on behalf of the open dialog foundation. According to them,  central to the case of the prosecution are the testimony of former supporters of the defendants, materials of the opposition media and expert opinions whose objectivity is highly questionable. Thus, the nature of the charges and evidence against the defendants means that they are subjected to criminal liability for the conduct of opposition activity, which in Europe is considered normal.

Our observers draw attention to some other significant violations:

1. The judge did not permit  the process to be conducted using the Russian language.  The level of translation is poor, and subsequently when a discussion starts between the judge, the parties, or those questioned, it is very difficult to understand what the subject of the conversation is.   

2. The judge refused to urgently consider Kozlov’s appeal regarding the regular presence of unidentified and aggressive persons in his prison cell. For reasons undefined, the judge ruled that the motion will be considered only after he receives it in writing. But Kozlov has previously sent a formal complaint from prison, and the letter has yet to reach the judge. This indicates that the prison authorities violated the rights of the accused to file complaints to state bodies. The lawyer, Mr. Plugov, drew the judge’s attention to the fact that the statement has already been filed in verball form, and the court should respond to it. The lack of response from the judge or prosecutor to Kozlov’s statement resulted in its re-filing and a threat to commence a hunger strike if his complaint is not considered as soon as possible.

In general, the Ukrainian human rights activists have the impression that the judge is making attempts to conclude the criminal proceedings against Kozlov, Sapargali and Aminov as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the defence team of Vladimir Kozlov, believe that the final decision of the court will not be in their favour – too much effort has been spent on trying to prove the guilt of Vladimir Kozlov. This may very well have an adverse effect the fate of the opposition activity in Kazakhstan.